Squash stew with chilies, spices and ground nuts

Posted: December 6, 2011 in lacto-ovo vegetarian recipes
Tags: ,

I wanted acorn squash for dinner.  And since I’m on call, there’s a high likelihood that even if I can get dinner made, I could get called at 4pm to go to work until 7p anyway.  So I needed acorn squash that could sit awhile and be warm, ideally in my crock pot.  I flipped through books and stopped as soon as I saw the title of this recipe because it sounds awesome.  However, it’s not a crock pot recipe at all.  Making food in a crock pot is my favorite way to cook because it feels like meals cook themselves and though there’s some preparation, you can go away and forget about it….then come home and yay, your dinner is done.

I’m going to give you instructions from Greens (and Greens is one of the most fabulous restaurants in the world, so they know food.)  …..and also the instructions that I made up as I went.  It’s stew, right?  How hard can stew be?

Hope it turns out okay.

lacto-ovo vegetarian, but easily vegan, gluten –

source:  The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison

  • 1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 3 tbs sesame seeds (all I had on hand was black sesame seeds used in Indian cooking…so I was brave or stupid and tossed it in…black sesame seeds DO have a different flavor)
  • 1 oz (~ 24) whole almonds
  • 2 pasilla chiles for chile powder or 3 – 4 tbs New Mexican chili powder (I have decent quality chili rojo…and I don’t have time to go milk cows and churn butter today, so we will be using somebody else’s chile powder)
  • 2 tbs corn or olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, cut into 1/2 in squares (and I measured every one through bleary, crying eyes…with a ruler…)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 3 c winter squash cut into 3/4 in chunks (this is why Greens restaurant is Greens restaurant…they hire somebody to measure the squash chunks, I’ll bet)  (I ended up with probably 5 or 6 cups because I can’t eyeball 4 cups of acorn squash.  Oh well. I hope this is good because I’m making a LOT OF IT.)
  • 6 to 8 ounces mushrooms, wiped clean and halved or quartered (I went with two hands’ full because I could see how much squash I had….and Mark likes mushrooms)
  • salt
  • 3 – 4 c water, juice from tomatoes or vegetable stock, heated (I went with 4c thin stock)
  • 1/2 cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 1 sm can hominy, drained (I don’t buy canned hominy.  I tossed three handfuls of dry in my slow cooker with water to cover, set to high and went grocery shopping.  By the time I was ready for it, it was ready for me.  Hominy is good easy cheap food to take for lunch, with chopped Anaheims and some beans and salsa and cheese.)
  • 2 lb tomatoes, fresh or canned, peeled, seeded and pureed. (I was going to use my frozen tomatoes, but when I pureed them, something was *off* about them….so I went with canned puree, because it’s what I had)
  • 1 c peas, fresh or (frozen)
  • 2 tbs chopped cilantro leaves
  • sour cream or creme fraiche
  • sprigs cilantro for garnish

As I’m typing this, my recipe looks like it will be quite different from Greens’ version.  Oh well….I’m wondering about those sesame seeds, but we’ll see.

Toast cumin seeds in a dry pan over med heat for several minutes until they smell amazing.  Shake pan back and forth frequently so they won’t burn.  Add oregano until it smells even more amazing.  Remove to a bowl.  Using same pan, toast sesame seeds until they are lightly browned.  Set aside; then toast the almonds.  When they are browned, roughly chop.  Grind cumin and oregano to a powder in a spice mill; then grind the almonds and the sesame seeds to a fine meal.  (As much as I’m sure this method is fabulous, my life — and I’ll bet yours — is short.  I ground all things up together in a mini mixer.  Smells great.  Because I mashed it all together, I’m adding the spices all at once.  It’s a stew….how complicated does it have to be, right?  Right?)

If you’re making homemade pasilla powder:  Preheat oven to 350F.  Roast chilies until they puff up and are fragrant, about 4 – 5 minutes.  Cool slightly; then cut open, remove stems, seeds and veins, tear into pieces.  Grind chilies in a spice mill or small blender jar to make a coarse powder.  (Greens doesn’t tell you this, but you should wear gloves while tearing and mixing homemade chili powder.  Otherwise, ouch.)

Heat oil in a casserole (I used a small frying pan), add onions, saute over med-high heat until they soften.  Then add garlic, cumin and oregano (I added to the crock) and 2 tbsp of chili powder, cook another minute.  (At this point, I transferred the onions to a crock pot because my stew will be burbling in it all day.  In theory.)  Next add squash, shrooms, a sprinkling of salt, and your water/tomato juice/stock.  Boil, then lower heat, cover and cook slowly until squash is tender, about 20 minutes.  Check to see if the mixture dries out while cooking, then add more liquid if necessary.

Add almonds/sesame seeds, cauliflower, hominy and pureed tomato.  Check for salt, season as desired with chili.  Continue cooking until cauliflower is nearly tender, then add peas and chopped cilantro, and let stew a few minutes.  Serve with sour cream or creme fraiche and garnish with cilantro.  These spicy, peppery squash stews are good with a California vin gris or dry sauvignon blanc, or a light to medium zinfandel.

(In crock pot cooking, nothing ever dries out.  And you can add almost everything at once.  So I tossed in the squash, shrooms, salt, stock, spice mix, hominy, pureed tomato, cauliflower and peas.  Everything but the cilantro and creme fraiche (obviously).)  I’m gonna cook it on low for a while and we shall see what happens.  By the aroma, it smells good…but very different because of the sesame seeds.  I had in my head I wanted a Southwest acorn squash something….and I think I’m getting a Southeast Asian acorn squash something.  Which ….might be fabulous, too.  Potentially.  And regardless, Mark will never know.  😀

p.s.  Turned out really geat.  Warm veggies stew with a little brightness with the cilantro, a deeper hum of the chile, a slight cool smoothness of the creme, and all that crunchiness of the veggies.  Good winter stew.

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